Satellite Guys Start Building Their Own Canoe

DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) and Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) may be fierce rivals, but the satellite-TV giants have found common ground in the area of interactive advertising.

Taking a page from the cross-MSO Canoe Ventures LLC playbook, the satellite giants have launched the Advanced Satellite Advertising Platform (ASAP), with the aim of offering a national interactive ad play on systems that already reach about 30 million homes, or about one third of the nation's households. (See DirecTV, Dish Interact on Ads.)

Although Canoe -- a joint venture with the support of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Cox Communications Inc. , Charter Communications Inc. , and Bright House Networks -- will rely heavily on many common technical components, the satellite-driven initiative is being characterized as a turnkey, joint sales effort between DirecTV and Dish.

While Canoe members gear up to roll out an interactive request-for-information (RFI) campaign using Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF), the technical way in which Dish and DirecTV deliver interactive ads will remain the same, according to Dish spokeswoman Francie Bauer. Dish, for example, will continue to use OpenTV Corp. (Nasdaq: OPTV) set-top software to serve up interactive ads.

Under that arrangement, the joint satellite sales unit will provide one point of contact for the ads that are to be run on the DirecTV and Dish systems. That same unit will rely on a third party to provide a joint data report to ASAP advertisers. However, those same advertisers will be required to negotiate spot buys separately with DirecTV and Dish.

DirecTV and Dish believe the system "will bring some scale to the satellite iTV ad platforms" and help attract "blue chip" advertisers that have so far been out of their reach on an individual basis, Bauer says.

Cable's Canoe effort is trying to shore up an ad market that's been losing share to the Internet. At last check, Canoe anticipated getting its national EBIF-driven campaign off the ground by this spring. Cablevision, meanwhile, has been moving ahead of Canoe with RFI ad campaigns that use proprietary technology. (See Canoe Rows Toward Enhanced TV , Plugging the Ad Drain, and Cablevision's Interactive Ads Click With Subs.)

The joint effort announced today doesn't preclude DirecTV and Dish from working with Canoe further downstream, but the satellite-led partnership may allow them to leap out ahead. Dish and DirecTV expect to launch their first ASAP-based interactive ad campaign in June, Bauer says, noting that the companies have been talking to potential advertisers about it for "several weeks."

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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